Family friendly fun in San Antonio (even if your kids bail on you)

By: Wendi Aarons
August, 2022

I had every intention of bringing my family with me on my recent family trips to the San Antonio Riverwalk. It’s kind of the main ingredient. It didn’t work out that way, however, because my husband Chris and I are now on the verge of an empty nest. Our oldest bird flew all the way to London for college, so he wasn’t available, and right before we were ready to leave for our weekends, our youngest bird was busy with high school graduation and future college activities.

So, with no family, is it possible to enjoy a family trip? Yes! But I’ll still tell you how to have a great stay in San Antonio with kids in tow.

Chris and I drove the 60 miles from Austin to San Antonio with nobody kicking the back of our seats, and checked into the recently remodeled Grand Hyatt San Antonio Riverwalk, adjacent to Hemisfair Park and the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. The Grand Hyatt features large and updated suites that serve up one-of-a-kind travel experiences, like Wellness Suites with in-room Peloton™ bikes, an Entertainer Suite with billiards, a Gamer Suite with a variety of board games and a Playstation®4, and Topgolf Swing Suites. The hotel also offers family fun via the heated rooftop pool, a game arcade, and two Topgolf Swing Suite indoor simulator bays, featuring a variety of virtual games. We enjoyed a delicious dinner at the hotel’s Bar Rojo restaurant, then grabbed margaritas and played some virtual Dodgeball (I won) before heading to the arcade to play a few more games (I won). Who needs kids when you can rub your pinball superiority in your husband’s face? It was refreshing to participate in the games this time around when normally I’d just stand around and watch the boys. Chris and I then retired to our lovely and spacious suite where the only theme appeared to be “poor winner.”

The Topgolf Swing Suite at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio. Contributed by Grand Hyatt San Antonio

The next morning started nicely via a narrated and scenic  Go Rio cruise. It’s a great way for all ages to learn about the city’s culture, history, and architecture. Other downtown kid attractions include Ripleys Believe it or Not, The DoSeum, and the nearby Riverwalk Mall. And, of course, Sea World, The Witte Museum, and Fiesta Texas and the San Antonio Zoo are just short drives away. We’ve had fun at every one of those places in the past, but instead of a dolphin show, this time we took a leisurely stroll through the pretty art and gift shops in the historic La Villita, before heading to lively Pearl District for lunch and then the San Antonio Art Museum. (I made sure to beg for a few things in the gift shop so my husband didn’t miss our kids too much.)

My next family trip also happened without a family because Chris and Jack had a college orientation to attend. Filling in was my friend Meredith who promised to complain and whine and fight over which bed was hers if needed. The two of us checked into the recently remodeled Hyatt Regency on the River Walk, on the opposite end of the river from the Grand Hyatt. It’s in a perfect downtown location, directly connected to Alamo Plaza, and close to theaters, restaurants, bars, and the always fun Buckhorn Saloon that my kids and parents love to visit.  Not to mention the wonderful Majestic Theater that’s sometimes a better option than Austin’s frequently sold-out Paramount Theater. The lobby’s floor-to-ceiling atrium windows showcase the River Walk, and the 630 guestrooms and suites provide panoramic views of the city. The view from our modern and spacious room was of The Alamo, which means I annoyed Meredith by regularly closing and opening the curtains and saying, “I forgot The Alamo, oh wait, I just remembered the Alamo!” She loved it.

The Alamo View King Room at the Hyatt Regency San Antonio Riverwalk. Contributed by Hyatt Regency San Antonio Riverwalk

One of San Antonio’s best features, and probably mine, if I’m being honest, is its age. Austin is pretty much a Gen Z/Millennial kingdom now, with Lime scooters, wild bachelorette parties, and man buns in tank tops everywhere you look. It’s all new new new! And pricey pricey pricey! That’s why we both appreciated the relative slowness of downtown SA. We hit the darkly lit, historic Esquire Tavern for fries, cocktails and gossip, then took a nice stroll through the almost empty downtown to El Mercado for dinner at San Antonio’s renowned Mi Tierra. Bellies full of mole enchiladas, the rest of our evening was spent relaxing in our quiet room, working on the true crime game we brought along. Unfortunately, poor Max Childer’s murder currently remains unsolved because giant margaritas make amateur sleuths like, really sleepy. The next morning we took a quick walk to Schilo’s, the oldest restaurant in San Antonio, for a filling and tasty breakfast. We couldn’t believe how much food we got for not that much money, and can’t wait to go back.

If you’re looking for a quick weekend away with your family, I highly recommend both the Grand Hyatt and the Hyatt Regency for their locations, amenities, and style. Your kids will have a blast. And then, in a few years when you’re sitting in recently emptied nest like I am, make another visit and catch all the things you maybe didn’t see the first time around. And if you have any leads on who bludgeoned poor Max, let me know.

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